Rare blue-eyed, ginger fur seal pup may need rescuing if shunned by colony

The seal was recently spotted in Russia's sea of Okhotsk.
The seal was recently spotted in Russia's sea of Okhotsk. Photo credit: Instagram / Vladimir Burkanov

A rare blue-eyed ginger fur seal pup has been found by scientists off the coast of eastern Russia, but there are fears it may be shunned by its colony.

The seal was spotted by marine biologist Vladimir Burkanov on Tyuleniy Island in the sea of Okhotsk on Monday. The seal was born less than a month ago and Burkanov said it will be closely monitored for its safety.

According to the Siberian Times, the chances of a partial albino birth are one in 100,000 and there is a risk of rejection. 

"This pup looks well fed and was very active, so its mother clearly gave it plenty of milk," Burkanov said, according to the Siberan Times.

"Other seals don't pay too much attention to it in a somewhat worrying manner, so something is not quite right with it. But it's not getting chased or bitten."

He added that like all other recorded cases of full and partial albinism, the seal has bad eyesight.

Burkanov dubbed the seal an "ugly duckling", and said that based on his knowledge of observing seals for years, its chances of breeding and growing old are low.

However, he wrote in an Instagram post on Wednesday that there's a case from 2017 of an adult seal that is partially albino still living in a rookery on Bering Island in eastern Russia.

"He did not participate in reproduction this season and was seen on the bachelor section of the rookery only," he wrote.

"Perhaps, this is the first documented case of the survival of a northern fur seal of an abnormal colour to adulthood."

He said scientists will keep an eye on the latest pup to ensure they can rescue it if it's rejected. If it is rescued it could be moved to a dolphinarium, which is what's happened with previously rejected seals.